Staying On Track (& Field)
Coach Ryan Davis knows the power of subtlety. “I’m kind of the laid-back coach. I don’t have to scream and holler,” he said. “When I’m mad, you know I’m mad, and when I’m fussing, there’s a reason I’m fussing.”
That approach has served Davis well in his 18 years at Woodward coaching football and track & field. This year he will take over as Head Varsity Track & Field coach following the recent retirement of Tim Hamling. And Davis continues to wear multiple hats on the football sideline, including co-defensive coordinator along with Coach Bill McGarrah, as well as coaching the secondary and special teams. Davis also handles much of the college recruiting process for athletes who continue on to the next level. To round out his duties, he is also responsible for equipment and uniform procurement for the football team.
On the football side Davis has worked under three different head coaches. Dale Wiggins hired him out of college before being succeeded by Mark Miller and then a decade under current Coach John Hunt.
"My working relationship with Coach Hunt is great,” Davis said. “He lets me do my job. He doesn’t hound. He doesn’t put on a lot of pressure. He trusts that I can handle all of the recruitment and some of the jobs that aren’t taken on by him. It’s a great working relationship.”
As one might expect, the two sports realms Davis inhabits each require a different approach. “Football is a tough, rugged sport,” he said. “You have to have a different mentality. So of course the approach has to be a lot firmer. It’s one of the few total team games that are left.” This mindset requires getting players to think holistically about the team and the strategy driving it, he said, while also making sure each player understands his role in that whole.
"Track is a little different,” Davis said. “It’s a little bit more individualized and specialized. So you have to make sure you focus on a lot of the technique, form, and fine-tuning of the athletes.”
Despite those differences, Davis says he encourages students to take a broad-based approach to athletics. He points out that many of his track athletes who also play other sports (including football) seem to benefit from the overlap. “I’m an advocate of kids doing multiple things, especially in high school. You only get one time to be in school, so go play football. Go play basketball. Go run track. Play volleyball. Cheerlead.” While he said not every athlete should expect to follow in the footsteps of famous multi-sport alums like Walker Kessler ʼ20 or Delino DeShields ʼ10, taking the opportunity to diversify their athletic and cocurricular experience ensures that they will find the thing they’re best at and most passionate about. “Early on, do everything and figure out what your niche is.”
At the same time, Davis said all of those disparate interests and all of the factors tugging student athletes in different directions can make things challenging for him as a coach. So he preaches focus and dedication while accepting that some students will take other paths.
Davis said a highlight of his career has been seeing athletes he worked with go on to not only have great professional athletic careers but to grow into great people: “I have a player by the name of Andrew Adams ʼ11 that is currently playing with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Coming out of high school, he wasn’t heavily recruited. As a matter of fact, he thought he was going to go play baseball in college. And then at the last minute we were able to get Yukon to make an offer to him. And he’s just continued to work and scratch and claw to where he is now with the Bucs and a Super Bowl ring. But he’s grounded. Would come every summer to his youth football camp here at the school. He’s giving back to the community. So that’s one I’m proud of.” Davis cited Juwan Thompson ʼ10 of the Denver Broncos as a similar success story.
Looking forward, Davis is preparing for the challenge of moving to division 6A after the Georgia High School Association reclassified many schools this year. But he said he believes with the right approach and resources, Woodward and its athletes will rise to that challenge.
Similarly, Davis seems invested in Woodward’s long-term success even as he pursues his personal career goals: “I’ve had opportunities to go other places, college and high school. But Woodward has such a family atmosphere. It’s become my second home. So it would have to be an extremely, extremely amazing opportunity to pull me away from here. Ultimately I have some personal goals that I want to set forward. And I think in time maybe those goals will come to fruition. But right now I’m a loyal team player. I know my role. I’m just excited about the opportunity for our success, and our school, and our program.”